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A letter from Esther Wakeman serving in Thailand
Fall 2014 - Developing Global Citizens
Adding to the joy of working with our new president at Payap University in Chiang Mai, Thailand, Dr. Sompan Wongdee (see my Summer letter), I’m delighting in my new assistant, Thosaphon Bunsiri (Jim), who is responsible for Student Development. Dr. Sompan reorganized Payap administratively and added Student Development to my portfolio. Jim was a student leader while he studied at Payap and graduated in Hotel Management. He became a teacher with us, and went on to do a master’s degree in Information Systems. He’s now completing his doctorate in that field. In fact, he graciously agreed to return to work full time as he completes his Ph.D. to help us in Student Development. I am so glad. He’s smart, organized, computer-savvy, people-savvy, and highly motivated to help with Dr Sompan’s vision to make Payap a great place to learn and work, and move us toward our vision of being an International Learning Resource, Developing Global Citizens.Continue reading
A letter from Ruth Brown serving in Congo
Fall 2014 - Praising God at All Hours
Muoyo webe! (Life to you!)
Every morning now, beginning around 7 a.m., the street in front of my apartment is filled with children dressed in white shirts and navy skirts or pants. Their laughter, chatter, and song are welcome sounds! At the outskirts of Kananga, on the grounds of a center originally built to re-socialize child soldiers, these sounds of excitement can also be heard because the 22 former street children, ages 6 to 16 years, in the Ditekemena (“Hope”) Program in Kananga, were able to begin school classes, and due to an incredibly generous gift from Shepherd-Lapsley Presbytery in Alabama these children will be able to continue their classes all this school year! About half of the children had missed at least two years of school, many had missed four years, and several had never attended school. Two boys were able to attend regular, public school. The other 20 children have been divided into three levels of classes for which teachers are using the Congolese government’s special “make-up curricula,” accelerated courses designed to advance the children to their age-appropriate levels of education. Ditekemena’s 23rd child, Noella, who will be 2 years old on Christmas Day, 2014, is the sister of Abiba, a 12-year-old in the program. Noella is finally learning to walk after Ditekemena staff encouraged the older children to stop carrying her and to allow her to spend more time trying to walk by herself.Continue reading
A letter from Mark Adams and Miriam Maldonado serving in Mexico
September 2014 - Building Together
Dear Sisters and Brothers:
You too are being built together as a dwelling in which God dwells by God’s Spirit. —Ephesians 2:22
Ephesians 2:11-22 was chosen 30 years ago to be the theme passage for all of the Presbyterian Border Ministry, of which Frontera de Cristo is a part. On November 22 we will be celebrating our 30th anniversary, giving thanks to God for the ways in which we have been, are being, and will be built together as a dwelling for God—folks from the U.S. and folks from Mexico; poor and rich; folks recovering from addictions, teetotalers, and folks not yet in recovering; conservative and liberal; Presbyterian, Catholic, Mennonite, Quaker, Episcopalian, non-denominational, seeker, people of conscience, and others.
In August we were blessed to have Juna Rosales Mueller come and share three weeks with us, working with DouglaPrieta and CRREDA in the continued development of a vision that she first had in the Lirio de los Valles Presbyterian Church sanctuary as part of the Woolman School Mission Education Delegation three years ago. After spending over six hours with our Agua Para La Vida ministry, walking migrant trails in the desert and encountering many clothes that had been left behind by the persons migrating, Juna reflected on her experiences of the day and saw a quilt forming from the clothes—a quilt that would help tell the human story of migration and would serve to build relationships and understanding across borders.Continue reading
A letter from Tom and Judy Harvey serving in England
October 2014 - Students Behind the News
Dear Friends and Partners in Mission,
For those of you not familiar with the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies (OCMS), we have 113 doctoral students from over 40 nations who continue to serve in often very difficult situations even as they pursue their research. This means that one of the great joys and sorrows at OCMS is simply reading the news.
When I read about the flood of Muslim, Christian and Yazidi refugees fleeing the violence in Iraq, my thoughts turn to our student Malkhaz Songulashvili in Georgia. Currently Malkhaz is struggling to cope with the massive tide of individuals and families flooding into Tblisi. Not only are they in desperate need of food, clothing and shelter, they have suffered horrible physical, psychological and spiritual trauma. Georgia is a poor nation and therefore dealing with the onslaught of refugees as the bitter Georgian winter prepares to set in is an impossible task. Further, many Georgians despise the refugees, and ethnic tensions are rising. Malkhaz must work as well to address the frustration of his fellow Georgians even as he attempts to work with the refugees. Malkhaz’s research has uniquely prepared him for this difficult work. His research specialty is addressing conflict and reconciliation between the churches and peoples of the region. He is a bridge-builder in the right place, with the right training and at the right time.Continue reading
A letter from Stephen and Brenda Stelle serving in Ethiopia
September 2014 - A Surprising September
On Monday, September 1, we began the move to Dembi Dollo. We loaded up an Isuzu truck with all our things (much that was given to us) and by 9 am the Addis apartment was completely empty. We flew out of Addis early Tuesday morning, arrived in Gambella, and were on our way in a synod vehicle by 8:30 am. Very Nice! Very Simple! Just as Planned!
On the outskirts of Gambella we were surprised to see a man standing in the middle of the road, waving us down. It was obvious his arm was broken, hanging limply, and giving him great pain. To the right of the man we saw an Isuzu truck that had slid off the muddy road and crashed into a large tree.
Kana (as we learned later) had been a passenger in the Isuzu truck. He begged us for a ride to the hospital in Dembi Dollo. Our truck was full of people (the two of us, the driver, the driver’s mother, the driver’s brother and the driver’s friend), but we managed to get him into the vehicle. He was in a lot of pain, moaning and groaning, and we still had a three-hour drive up the mountain. Brenda found some Tylenol and gave it to him to ease his suffering and made him comfortable, using some of our clothes for a pillow. (Brenda’s dad wanted her to either become a teacher or a nurse; perhaps in Africa she will be both.)Continue reading
A letter from Nancy Dimmock serving in the U.S.
September 2014 - Transition
For our multi-cultural, internationally raised children, the hardest question to answer, and the most frequently asked in a new environment, is “Where are you from?” There are a number of reasonable answers to this question—their current address (east Louisville), the country they came from most recently (Zambia), where they were raised (Malawi or Lesotho), or where they were born (Malawi or the U.S.). In the “All about me” time at Jackson’s new elementary school, Jackson chose to tell his classmates that he was from Zambia in southern Africa. But two days later he came storming off the school bus saying, “I wish I had never told anyone I was from Africa. They keep asking me silly questions like, ‘Did you play with tigers?’ Don’t they know that tigers are in India?
Alifa, knowing it is unlikely that kids at her school know either Lesotho or Malawi, has told them that she is from South Africa. And still she gets the question, “Where is that?” Really?
It is no wonder that Andrew, the only one who can honestly say he is “from” the U.S. (having been born in Atlanta), has chosen to minimize the differences by giving his birthplace as the answer to this difficult question.
A letter from Inge Sthreshley in Congo
September 25, 2014 - Containing Ebola
It was 2007 and Ebola had just been confirmed at the town of Luebo. Larry was coordinating for a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) team to get set up on the ground at Luebo Presbyterian Hospital to help contain the Ebola outbreak. Two CDC folks were already in Kinshasa and more of the team would be arriving in the next two days. The team would need a place to stay at Luebo. An old mission home was available, but it would take a lot of work to get it ready. Larry called me, “Inge, could you and Katherine go shopping tomorrow and buy everything needed to set up a “guesthouse” for a maximum of 16 people and food for one week?”
If I was going to be shopping the next day to set up house for 16 people, I needed to work on a major shopping list. I made the initial list and then walked through my own house to see what was absolutely essential in each room. Early the next morning my friend Katherine Niles and I picked up the $10,000 for the shopping trip. We each put $1,000 into our purses and $4,000 into the bottom of one of our shoes. Shopping with credit or debit cards was not an option and carrying around that much money in a purse was a risk. We compared and finalized lists and hit the ground. David Law, another missionary, was buying all the tools and materials to work on the house itself, the plumbing, generator, lights, screening for windows, etc.Continue reading
A letter from Kurt Esslinger serving in South Korea
September 2014 - God Is In Korea
Greetings friends, family, and supporters,
An entire year of Young Adult Volunteers (YAVs) in Korea with us has passed and a new set of young adults has already hit the ground full speed in struggling to adapt to a new culture. Also, Happy Chuseok! The Korean Harvest Festival just passed this past week, and Hyeyoung, Sahn, and I went to see the grandparents in Ulsan, eating ourselves silly.
We did not have much time to reflect on our first set of YAVs since they headed back to the States in July because I started the additional new position (working with the National Council of Churches in Korea's Reconciliation and Reunification Department), which takes me to Seoul for three days every week. Chuseok gave us a little bit of breathing time, however, and we feel very positive about our work and the future potential for this site. We have much work to do in terms of expanding the site and adding some diversity to the volunteer opportunities, but we have a solid foundation to work from.Continue reading
A letter from Burkhard Paetzold serving as Regional Liaison for Central and Eastern Europe, based in Germany
Fall 2014 - European Christians' Meeting
I hope you enjoyed a great summer!
Let me thank you for all your prayers and support. I thank you in particular for your peace prayers, it's so much needed in Ukraine as well as in the Middle East these days.
German churches prepare for their annual Ecumenical Peace Decade festival, November 9-19. The theme is "Befreit zum Widerstehen" (Liberated to Resist). During the yearly 10 days of the "Friedensdekade" (Peace Decade) many churches join in worship services and prayer groups, or show movies, invite peace activists, develop creative workshops, and much more. This is to remind us to resist cultures of violence, including the violence in our own culture.
In Europe we have just commemorated 100 years since the beginning of World War I and 75 years since the beginning of World War II. Ironically at the same time leading German politicians are discussing whether Germany should assume greater international responsibility. This would also include more participation in "military" interventions. Given that Germany was an aggressor in both wars, a majority of Germans soon after World War II agreed "to never touch a gun again." But then the Cold War began and both East and West Germany within their respective military blocks rearmed gradually and targeted each other.Continue reading
A letter from Sharon Bryant serving in Thailand
Fall 2014 - Being in the Right Place
There is a deep joy that fills my heart each day, for God has put me in the right place and given me work to do that fills my time, uses my gifts, and reveals the work of the Holy Spirit in strange and wonderful ways! While the decision for me to move to Bangkok and work in the Ecumenical Relations Office of the Church of Christ in Thailand (CCT) was made jointly by PC(USA) World Mission and the CCT, it has become obvious to me that it truly was the will of God. The work that I now do with the rest of the Ecumenical Relations staff mirrors what I have been doing with Christian Volunteers in Thailand (CVT), but now I am able to do so much more for so many more people! And the work of Christian Volunteers in Thailand (CVT) is much more visible—so visible that the officers of the CCT have approved three new staff positions: a mission co-worker to share the workload of caring for all mission workers (CVTs and mission co-workers), another mission worker to specialize in child protection and human trafficking, and a Thai to assist with record keeping and support the CCT’s Korean mission workers. While two of these have yet to join us, we have been blessed by the work of Rev. Dr. Ann Rogers Brigham this summer. Ann is the pastor of the Congregational (UCC) Church of Almaden Valley in California. She took a six-week sabbatical to come to Thailand to share in the work and ministry of the Ecumenical Relations Office. She traveled with me as we visited CVT volunteers in seven of the Christian schools of the CCT and led teacher-training seminars for the English teachers in those schools. Her past experience living and working in Thailand and her experience in teaching English as a second language to Vietnamese persons living in California showed in her work with the Thai teachers, our volunteers and me.Continue reading
Thank You and Your Family for serving God by taking His word so far from Your Home.
God is doing his work and using us a tools in other nations.during my working here in Athens i observed that there are many oppertunities to share the Gospel massage with other those do not know Jesus and we can bring them to Jesus Christ.Please prayer for me that i'm a very littel to that God is using me here in Athens Greece. God bless you.